Petchey relives past nightmares

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More blushes this morning for British tennis, with the Davis Cup team standing level at 1-1 in their Euro-African Zone Group Two tie with Slovenia ,the Balkan republic with a population of only 1.97m. There were two surprises yesterday: Greg Rusedski dropped a set and Mark Petchey won one.

When selecting Petchey as a substitite for the indisposed No 1 Tim Henman, David Lloyd, the captain, said it would give the Essex player an opportunity rid himself of the ghosts of past singles rubbers. But last night's defeat by the Slovenian No 1, Iztok Bozic, who is ranked 216 places below him at No 419, suggests he needs an excorcist rather than a coach.

Petchey, who has defeated three top 10 players on the ATP Tour - Michael Stich, Michael Chang and Alberto Berasategui - appears to have a psychological block where Davis Cup ties are concerned. His only singles success in 10 matches was his first, when he trapped Thomas Muster on the Austrian's least favoured surface, a grass court in Manchester in 1991.

"I'm bitterly disappointed," Petchey said. "The most important thing is we're still in the tie." He complimented Bozic, saying: "He got back some balls that Michael Chang wouldn't have been able to reach."

Bozic, a short, lively and resilient character, won the contest 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. This followed Rusedski 's 6-1, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 victory over against Borut Urh, the 21-year-old Slovenian No 2, who is 420 places inferior on the rankings computer at No 478.

The astonishing feature of Rusedski's performance was the third-set tie- break, which he lost 7-0.

In a smooth beginning when Rusedski appeared to use the surrounds as a shooting gallery, ball boys and line judges were forced to dive for cover to avoid being belted by the Brit's mighty serves.

This went on for the best part of an hour and a half, during which Urh was barely able to cope. The Slovenian, however, gradually gained confidence in the third set, bolstered by his opponent's numerous errors, particularly on the backhand, which was a constant source of frustration for Rusedski.

After saving a break point in the opening game of the set, Urh proceeded to match Rusedski almost shot for shot. And although the Briton conceded only six points off his serve and brought his total of aces to 18 his game seized up in the tie-break.

Urh finally cracked in the eighth game of the fourth set, but the job was still not quite complete. Indeed Rusedski found himself 0-40 down and it was at this stage of the proceedings when Rusedski was seen at his best. He produced an ace to save the first break point, a forehand volley to whisk away the second and a service winner to bring the score to deuce.

The Slovenian then hit a forehand service return over the baseline to give Rusedski a glimpse of a match point. A glimpse was all it was. Rusedski volleyed a forehand over the baseline to lose it. An ace gave him a second chance, but this time he misdirected a forehand volley. The backhand let him down again on a third match point and when he hit yet another ace the spectators held their breath to see what would happen on match point four. They need not have been concerned. A trademark ace - his 26th - clinched the match.

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